Is Day Trading Worth It? A Comparison of Long-term Investing and Short-term Trading


Day trading is a form of investing that involves buying and selling stocks in a single day. It is a high-risk, high-reward strategy that requires intense focus and fast decision-making skills. On the other hand, long-term investing involves buying and holding stocks for extended periods of time. The goal of long-term investing is to build wealth over the course of years or decades. This article will investigate the pros and cons of day trading versus long-term investing, and discuss which strategy may be worth pursuing.

Analyzing Success Stories

One of the most appealing aspects of day trading is the potential for large profits in a short amount of time. There are countless stories of day traders who have made millions of dollars in a matter of days or weeks. These success stories can be motivating, but they should be taken with a grain of salt. Most day traders do not make large sums of money; in fact, many of them lose money. According to a study by the University of California Davis, the average return on investment for day traders was -0.47%. By comparison, the average return on investment for long-term investors was 7.41%. This data suggests that while there are some successful day traders, most of them do not experience significant gains.

Cost Comparison

In addition to analyzing success stories, it is important to consider the costs associated with day trading. The first cost to consider is commission fees, which are charged by brokers for executing trades. Commission fees vary depending on the broker, but they typically range from $4 to $10 per trade. In addition to commission fees, day traders must also pay taxes on any profits they make. Depending on the trader’s tax bracket, these taxes can significantly reduce their profits. Finally, day traders must also factor in the cost of their time. Day trading requires constant attention, and the time spent researching and monitoring trades can add up quickly.

Long-term investing also has associated costs. Brokerage fees are typically lower than those of day traders, and long-term investors are also responsible for paying taxes on any profits they make. However, the most significant cost associated with long-term investing is the opportunity cost of tying up capital for extended periods of time. For example, if an investor chooses to invest in a stock for five years, they will miss out on potential returns from other investments during this time.

Psychological Implications

Day trading can be an emotionally taxing activity. Since day traders must make quick decisions in response to market fluctuations, they often experience high levels of stress. This can lead to rash decisions, which can have negative financial implications. Additionally, day traders often experience “gambler’s fallacy”, which is the belief that past results can predict future outcomes. This can lead to unrealistic expectations, and can ultimately lead to disappointment.

Long-term investing also has psychological implications. Since investments are tied up for extended periods of time, long-term investors must endure periods of volatility without making any changes to their portfolio. This can be difficult for some investors, as they may be tempted to “chase” gains or avoid losses. Additionally, long-term investors may experience “FOMO” (fear of missing out), which can lead to irrational decisions.

Potential Risks and Rewards

The potential risks and rewards of day trading and long-term investing should also be considered. Day trading carries a high risk of loss due to its volatile nature. Additionally, since day traders must make decisions quickly, they may miss out on potential gains or incur losses due to incorrect analysis. On the other hand, day trading can also provide substantial returns if executed correctly. If a day trader is able to accurately predict market movements and execute trades accordingly, they could potentially make large profits in a short period of time.

Long-term investing is generally less risky than day trading. Since investments are held for extended periods of time, investors are able to ride out periods of volatility and benefit from long-term growth. While long-term investing does not offer the same potential for large returns as day trading, it does provide consistent returns over time. Additionally, long-term investments are less likely to incur losses due to incorrect analysis.

Interviewing Experienced Day Traders

To gain further insight into day trading, I interviewed several experienced day traders. All of the traders agreed that day trading is a risky venture, and that it requires extensive knowledge of the markets and a keen understanding of technical analysis. They also emphasized the importance of having a plan and sticking to it. Finally, they all agreed that day trading should only be attempted by experienced traders who understand the risks involved.


Day trading and long-term investing are both viable strategies for achieving financial goals. Day trading offers the potential for large returns in a short amount of time, but it is also highly risky. Long-term investing provides steady returns over time and is less risky than day trading, but it does not offer the same potential for large gains. Ultimately, the decision between day trading and long-term investing should be based on individual goals and risk tolerance.

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